Summer Begins by Taking Action for World Refugee Day!

Summer Begins by Taking Action for World Refugee Day!

June marks the beginning of summer for many of us, but it also marks the start of another significant event for the Courageous Kitchen and many refugee communities across the globe. Every year in mid-June, several organizations host what has been declared as ‘Refugee Week’, with June 20th serving as the week’s capstone — this year will commemorate the 20th Annual World Refugee Day! As we join in the double-decade long celebration, we urge you to also join us by honoring the resilience and contributions of refugees and asylum seekers worldwide by taking action in the following ways:

    • 3) Cook/Eat – This may come as no surprise, but we believe the kitchen is one of the best places to learn about someone new, and connect with their culture. In diverse places in the west, we may take for granted how someone, or their ancestors, made harrowing journeys and sacrifices. World Refugee Day gives us an excuse to ask people about their heritage, culture, and an opportunity to celebrate these differences over something that binds us all, food!

  • 4) Share – In today’s political climate it can be unpopular to show your support publicly for refugees. Refugees are used as a political tool in some countries to propel xenophobic campaigns and policies. Wherever we are in the world, we can show our support for refugees and insist people recognize their human rights. If you join in the celebrations, document them by using the hashtags #RefugeeWeek2018 and #WithRefugees.
  • 5) Give Back – When you connect with your local refugee organizations find a way to donate, volunteer, or give back another way. These organizations are often underfunded and understaffed (speaking from experience), so if you can find a way to donate funds or time consistently for a few months, you can really make a difference for people in need and small organizations serving them. We’re asking people interested in supporting our mission to help by sponsoring a family.

Photo: Courageous Kitchen’s pre-teen students pose with Canadian chef Cameron Stauch.

Doing anything special this World Refugee Day? Please reach out and let us know!

An Eye Opening Kitchen Exchange with the Marriott’s Executive Chefs

An Eye Opening Kitchen Exchange with the Marriott’s Executive Chefs

We’re excited to share the latest fun activity between our junior chefs and the super chefs over at Bangkok’s Marriott Marquis Hotel. If you’re unfamiliar, the hotel is one the largest in the region and they often play host to the internal conferences and other activities for the brand. The hotel chefs recently invited our Courageous Kitchen students to participate in a family lunch event they were organizing for the upper management from hotels in the region. The activity brought the families of local Thai staff to create their favorite home recipes in the hotel, with our Courageous Kitchen students helping out.

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The recipes the families chose exhibited the diversity of Thai cuisine. A few of the dishes were popular Thai foods, like one granny’s recipe for pad thai, but not all of them. In fact, many of the recipes brought regional foods and little known homestyle recipes to be showcased. However, before we were welcomed into the hotel, the head chefs came to find out more about our charity and how we teach Courageous Kitchen students. To do this, they visited our outreach center in the outskirts of Bangkok to demonstrate two recipes for the students. One of the dishes was a crab curry and ended up looking and tasting amazing!

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Not long after the chefs visited the community, we joined the chefs in their kitchens to help during their event. Our students began the day with a buffet lunch, and a behind the scenes tour of the hotel’s back kitchens. The students, most of whom have never visited a hotel, were introduced as “guests of the head chef” and treated to tastings, and conversations with the chefs about what they were working on. In the bread making kitchen, our students made all sorts of miserable faces as they tried sourdough bread for the first time! This was a big contrast with their elated reactions to all of the sweets on display in the pastry kitchen. Afterwards, the students came back to the banquet room where they helped prepare and serve the special Thai recipes, fruit, and desserts to the guests.

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This kitchen exchange was the highlight of our activities over the past few months. Memories we made with the students and chefs will long be treasured by all involved. Most importantly, our students, who may likely think of street food when imagining a career in food and beverage, had the chance to visualize what’s possible if they continue to excel in the kitchen. Finally, to show their commitment to the development of the youth we serve, the hotel has also designated a special donation for improving our educational efforts. Bravo to all our students for doing so well in a new environment, and thank you to everyone for so warmly welcoming us!

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Big special thanks to everyone at the Marriott Marquis for welcoming our students so warmly, especially the head chefs and their teams! 

Photos by Alisa Suwanrumpha.

Meet the Talented Stars Behind Our Soul Sunday Fundraiser!

Meet the Talented Stars Behind Our Soul Sunday Fundraiser!

This Sunday in Bangkok we’re helping to host a funky get together of some of Bangkok’s most soulful musicians!

The fun evening includes performances by international and local artists, a special guest mixologist, and delicious food at local bar and creative space, Whiteline.  Proceeds from ticket sales, and a portion of bar sales, will be donated toward providing food, hygiene products, and financial assistance to the children and families languishing in detention.

Tickets can be purchased for Soul Sunday on eventbrite, and the event starts at 5pm. Ready to hear more about the musicians and cast of friends helping put together this great charity benefit? Read below!

Meet the Performers:

Tere’ Howard aka Soul Mama

Tere Howard, a.k.a. Soul Mama, is a phenomenal singer and the creator of Soul Sunday. By the time her travels brought her to Bangkok, she was already no stranger to community organizing and charity work. In her hometown of Philadelphia, she started an organization bringing independent artists together to uplift communities, and create positive social change through the arts. Soul Sunday was born when Soul Mama personally saw the need to provide resources like food, toiletries and other resources to families in immigration jail, saying, “I realize it takes all of us working together to help those with the greatest needs in our community. No one person can do it alone.”

Singer Natalie Van Der Walt

“I have a song within me that continues to pour out.” Natalie’s songs are described as personal, raw, but bold enough to be shared with anyone.

Jazz Vocalist Nicki Kidd

International Jazz Vocalist Nikki Kidd has a palatable passion for music. Her musical style is the embodiment of classic and current jazz and her voice has the ability to transport you to the days of speakeasies. Nikki has worked with acclaimed artists such as Gloria Estefan, Michael Bublé, and KC and the Sunshine Band.

She has also performed with the Florida Grand Opera in their production of the Opera “Aida” at the Arscht Center and records for Emilio Estefan at Crescent Moon Studio. Nikki continues to make a name for herself not only in her hometown, but also abroad where she has a residency at the Mandarin Oriental’s Bamboo Bar in Bangkok, Thailand.

Willard Dyson

Willard Dyson grew up in Oakland California and is at home in a myriad of musical genres including Jazz, R&B, African, Latin and Brazilian music. He received a degree in Percussion Performance from CSU Hayward and a Master of Music degree in Jazz and Commercial Music from the Manhattan School of Music. Willard has toured and recorded with many artists, as well as being a featured percussion soloist with the Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra.

Demi Nova

Demi Nova hails from Atlanta, GA where she’s danced with Tina Turner, and danced for Coretta Scott King. In addition to performing all over the US and internationally, Demi is a playwright, author, doctor of pharmacy. Her captivating energy will blow you away!

Paddy Benzy

Paddy Benzy is a Pan-African rap artist originating from Ghana. Paddy is the founder of SKG Records  and a multi talented artist who creates his own beats, writes and raps in his eclectic Afropop style. He has just released his first single called Erimma.

Joy Howard

Joy Howard is a singer, songwriter, and entrepreneur who seeks to unify people in music and fashion. She has been singing and performing all over Thailand since 2012. She started her “I Am Beautique” apparel company in 2017. The brand was designed to bring urban and traditional styles together, seeking to give identity and recognization to voices unheard.

DJ Kinky D

Establishing herself as a DJ back in 1994, Kinky D’s ever-growing reputation and continuing success has seen her become a solid contender upon the global music scene.  Kinky D has worked alongside some of the top names within the industry, including 50 Cent, Todd Terry, The Supremes, The Temptations, Kelis, Mark Ronson and Black Coffee.

Coco Rouzier

Coco Rouzier is an American vocalist, recording artist, songwriter and performance coach. You may have seen her performing the past year at the Sukhothai Bangkok Hotel, and is now preparing for her 6th tour of Southeast Asia.

Wombat Band

This music duo joins with a strong love of groove and melody. When they take the stage, they bring a mix of soul, funk, and reggae that they call Wombat sound.

Rapper MavenP

MavenP Aka MC Verssace is a true Veteran in the nightlife scene around Asia, cofounding Party Republik. He is known for his versatility with the ability to excel at songwriting, singing, rapping and at event hosting.

DJ Master D

One of the hottest DJs in Thailand, playing at clubs from Phuket to Bangkok. His mixture of afro beats, hip hop and more will keep any party lit!

There are so many others we have to thank for helping to make this event a success, including venue sponsor Oliver Wolfson of Whiteline, guest mixologist Sarah Madritsch, and photographer Sabrina Boyett. Thank you all!

Tickets are 300 baht on Eventbrite, or 400 baht at the door. Appetizers will be provided freely to guests (while they last) by our Courageous Kitchen team.

Celebrating the APIA Festival in Sacramento with Healthy Thai Recipes

Celebrating the APIA Festival in Sacramento with Healthy Thai Recipes

At the end of April, the Courageous Kitchen team took a break from our Thai cooking classes in San Diego, to travel to Northern Cali for our first activity in Sacramento. The occasion was to collaborate with Sacramento State University’s Full Circle Project in celebration of the Asian and Pacific Islander Awareness Festival. The APIA Fest is a yearly event coinciding with Asian Pacific Heritage Month, and we were invited to hold a Thai cooking demo and share our story with students on campus.

The Full Circle Project (FCP) works to mentor and support first generation college students, many of them the children of refugees who resettled in the US. This includes people of Hmong ethnicity, a hill tribe group in South East Asia, that Courageous Kitchen assists in Bangkok. Connections to the refugee experience and the culture and cuisine of South East Asia, made hosting the cooking demo a lot of fun and rewarding for everyone involved. Some students even wore their traditional clothing, sporting Hmong patterns and jewelry unique to their families’ tribes.

On the menu was a vegetarian version of our cooking class favorite ‘Tom Kha’, the Thai coconut soup. In addition to the soup, we taught the students to make a healthier version of the ever popular Thai Tea. The students helped themselves to seconds and thirds, while our volunteers, led by Christy Innouvong Thornton, dished out tips for recreating simple and college budget friendly versions of our recipe at home. The activity culminated with sharing from students who had recently joined Courageous Kitchen efforts in Bangkok, giving first hand testimony of both people in need and the hope we endeavor to provide through our food aid and education programs.

In the future we’d love to do more activities in Sacramento and are grateful to everyone who helped make this event a success. You can enjoy more photos from the activity on our Courageous Kitchen facebook page.

PS – If there are northern California supporters or former volunteers who missed this event, but would be interested to help with another in the future, please reach out!

Our Crazy, Courageous Goals for 2018

Our Crazy, Courageous Goals for 2018

Thank you for being here and following along our journey! 2017 was a big year for Courageous Kitchen because we launched our social enterprise doing Thai cooking tutorials in Bangkok and San Diego. Although we have been cooking with kids for more than four years now, developing a business model and implementing it successfully was our biggest and most rewarding challenge of the past year. Well we’re not stopping there! With your help and a big boost of confidence from a successful 2017, we’re outlining 5 crazy and courageous goals we hope to strive for in 2018!

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1) Specialized Cooking Classes for Young Adults and Teens

In 2017 we held our first cooking camp for pre-teens, hosting 11 children for a full three days of cooking. The activities were a blast! We had help from a visiting volunteer chef, all the way from New Zealand, and the students tried their hand at everything from Japanese food, to spicy Thai dishes, to baking. The time with the pre-teens helped us realize both how bright and capable they are, and the need to have more specialized instruction dedicated to them. So this year we will be focusing on them in more activities, both to build up their English language skills, and confidence in the kitchen. The group includes many students who overcome incredible odds every time they show up cook in the Courageous Kitchen!

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The older brothers and sisters in our young adults group, on the other hand, are so skilled in the kitchen that they tend to overshadow their younger siblings. We are bringing them new challenges in the kitchen this year, with lessons that build on each other, challenge them to create entire meals, and provide more vocational opportunities so they can get real world experience doing what they love. The student’s English speaking skills have grown leaps and bounds, but they must continue to develop their abilities to read and memorize recipes, work independently, and adapt to unexpected challenges.

Keep in mind these are students who may not have imagined before that they could aspire to be more than street food vendors and construction workers. But with your support and warm invitations from local businesses, we’ve taken many of them to make their first visits to real restaurants and even commercial kitchens. These opportunities give the students something to aspire to, and help them better understand the big picture of our transformation mission in their community.

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2) Build Stronger Teams to Serve Our Students and Families

Early in the life of our young organization we needed support for material items. We needed rice and cooking equipment, and food for families in need. We didn’t just have them on our wishlist, we needed those things urgently! After success in improving the conditions in the community and carving out a space where we can teach comfortably, we are turning our attention away from material needs, toward building stronger teams. This means adding paid staff to the Courageous Kitchen team who can really lay the foundation for the work that our volunteers arrive to do. Since many grants and other sources of funding do not allow us to allocate funds towards staffing needs, our ability to do this in the past has suffered. However, the income the charity generates through our cooking classes and street food tours, should help us expand our team this year. Then with stronger team cohesion we can also better keep our donors updated, by more regularly telling the stories of lives being changed with your support.

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3) Offer More Unique Cooking Classes and Products

There are plenty of options for cooking classes in Bangkok. In such a competitive business, we’re always adapting our classes to make the more local, personalized, and unique. This helps attract different types of customers and makes each of the classes more interesting to teach for us. For example, while you may only be able to cook standard Thai dishes in a typical cooking class, our small class size allows us to offer more unique dishes, such as this pineapple and seafood curry. If you’re planning to cook with us in 2018, be sure to also ask about our special menus featuring harder to find hilltribe dishes and spicy food from the Thai countryside!

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We’re not only increasing types of dishes we make with our guests, but the types of classes we offer too. We’re now offering an evening cooking class for families with children in Bangkok. During the class we will do interactive cooking demos with our guests, especially for the children attendance. This class was developed because feedback from guests indicated there is a shortage of family oriented activities, including less demanding cooking classes in Bangkok. While the morning class may be too intense, this new class gets everyone active rolling summer rolls, sticky rice dumplings, and other fun, edible treats. Parents and other kitchen weary visitors can also relax while we prepare the rest of dinner for you!

If you’re curious about the storm we’re cooking up with our guests in our usual morning market class, see our last post entitled, 5 Stunning Thai Dishes to Request in Our Bangkok Cooking Class!

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4) Secure More Long Term Partnerships

At our last class for 2017, there was a special surprise waiting for each of the students a full week before Christmas. Disguised in black trash bags, friends from Bangkok Patana School delivered over 70 presents to give away. Instead of giving indiscriminately the gifts, which came from the Year 6 students at Bangkok Patana’s primary school, were tailored to the age and gender of our kids. For our older students, for instance, many of the gift boxes were filled not only with fun, educational items, but with much needed toiletries too. In 2018 we hope to develop more long term partnerships with other schools, religious organizations, and businesses. The long term oriented relationships give time for outsiders to better understand the work we’re doing and the needs we’re addressing for families at risk in urban Bangkok.

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5) Be Kind to the Environment and Grow More of Our Own Food

Our last courageous challenge for 2018, is one we’re always working towards! We’re upping the ante this year, and began in January by offering our guests straws made with the hollow stem of the morning glory plant. The eco friendly alternative also looks great in our glasses of herbal butterfly and lemongrass teas. We have also been using more interesting plating thanks to a local company producing plates from the wood of betel nut palms.

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The material is biodegradable and a natural alternative to plastic plates or styrofoams used too often to serve and store food. The plates appear occasionally in our cooking classes, but are especially convenient on our Street Food 101 Tour. The tour takes guests off the beaten path to eat street food, which is often doled out in overly generous amounts into plastic bags or styrofoam plates. The feedback from guests and even many of the vendors we visit has been overwhelmingly positive, and we hope to continue to be more environmentally conscious in our endeavors in the future too!